I have kept a journal on and off for my entire life. If you have known me at any time between middle school and the present, it is very possible I wrote about you. In high school, I wrote about Heather, Stacey, and Danielle. Three girls that seemed much more mature than me and I wanted to be included in their friendship so badly that I begged my mom for Guess jeans and a Body Glove shirt. I had to fit in. It didn’t work, which is no fault of theirs, I was merely seeking friendship for the wrong reasons. They were kind to me, but never let me in their circle like I wanted.
Let’s jump out of the 1980’s and into the present day. I still desire to be included in the cool kids club. Though today, being an aspiring writer, I seek approval from fellow writers and readers. It’s a hard group to gage, everyone has different tastes and expectations. Isn’t that a life fact? No one marches to the same beat. Thank GOD! How boring would that be?
Most of my interactions with other writers has been online, though I am seeking to change that. As I begin to write more and send my work out for others to review I have found the writing community to be helpful and supportive. Recently I had a fellow writer critique a short story about a broken heart. It was pulled from my past experiences (from whom I will never tell) and brought to life with imagination and caged emotions. I felt really pleased with my story when I sent it over to him. When it was returned it was so marked up, I almost passed out. He did offer encouragement even after returning my 3,000-word story with so much red it looked like a massacre. I white-knuckled my desk and prepared for the rewrite.
Maybe I like a little pain, it seems to inspire me to work harder and do better. We have all been knocked down or criticized. The story I sent to my beta reader was good, but it could be better, and he saw that. He pointed out holes and redundancies, as well as areas I was showing versus telling (writing fundemental). Writing has delivered to me a thicker skin. I know I’m new here, I know I can do better.
We can all always do better.
I’m also aware I don’t have to listen to every comment/edit/suggestion someone gives to me. Still the master of my own destiny, I make the final decision.
Here is my advice: If someone offers you criticism, I think the first step is to listen. Then take what you need and toss the rest aside. Make sure you hear them out, and anything you are tossing aside should be questioned: why am I tossing this aside? If the answer is pride, then you’re missing the point and possibly missing out on a chance to grow and be better.
Pride is ugly. Any criticism that falls on deaf ears will lead to a sour return. No, you don’t have to take the advice, but there is always a lesson tucked away in others words. In my recent situation, the suggestions were obvious and useful. I said thank you, and I am working hard to be better.
How do you react when someone criticizes you? Do you find it helpful? Any advice on giving or receiving criticism you would want to share?